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Dollar has fallen 13% this year

Dollar faces long journey downward

By: James Saft

Even putting aside the spectacular but hard-to-measure risks of a financing crisis or the loss of its special status, the dollar faces really serious headwinds from boring old fundamentals.

The dollar has been weak for months and markets have been fretting over a host of big picture worries.

Perhaps the world’s oil exporters will stop using the dollar as the medium for petroleum trade. Or maybe the so-far patient and docile buyers of Treasuries will finally turn jittery. Either could be a disaster for the dollar, but you don’t need conspiracies or crises to be bearish on a currency from a country which on some measures has run the largest-ever deficit between what it imports and what it sells abroad.

One of the most interesting side effects of the first part of the financial crisis was that the dollar actually rose despite being the locus of the credit bubble and despite the U.S. consistently importing far more than it exports. That strength, which has now been reversed in part, was largely because the freezing up of markets set off a scramble for dollars.

The acute phase of the crisis is over and a return to something approaching normalcy is not treating the dollar kindly; from its peak this year the dollar has fallen more than 13 percent against a trade-weighted basket of currencies. The current account deficit — the balance of exports to imports — has also been reduced greatly, from a peak north of 6 percent of GDP to below 3 percent at the end of June, with further narrowing in the months since. That is because a weaker dollar makes U.S. products more competitive, but also because the price of oil, of which the U.S. is a net importer, has dropped, and consumption at home is flagging.

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